Monday’s Gospel finds Jesus in Bethany, a small town just beyond the Mount of Olives. He is visiting his friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. (John 12:1-11) This account immediately follows the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, (John 11) and immediately precedes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (John 12: 12 ff.)

It is here in the home of friends that John places the story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. Is it any wonder that Mary has in her possession “a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard” which she uses to anoint Jesus’ feet? After all, she had recently buried her brother Lazarus. She had barely begun to grieve him when Jesus raised him from the dead.

At the same time, Mary, living in such close proximity to Jerusalem, is surely aware of the growing tension between Jesus and the leaders who are plotting against him. As a friend and faithful disciple of Jesus, she has also heard him teaching that the Son of Man must be handed over, suffer, die and rise from the dead. Unlike Jesus’ apostles who did not understand this teaching of Jesus until after the resurrection, Mary has the womanly insight to understand – and she puts all of this together – she senses what is imminent – and anoints Jesus. The stage is set …

When Judas questions why this expensive oil was not sold and the proceeds given to the poor, Jesus rebukes him, tells him to ‘leave her alone.’ Jesus then confirms what Mary had deduced: “Let her keep this for the day of my burial.” (John 12: 7) The stage is set …

Mary’s intimate expression of love for Jesus foreshadows what lies ahead. Before Jesus washes the feet of his apostles at the Last Supper, Mary anoints his feet at her final meal with him in her home.

Mary’s womanly insight and intimate expression of love are highly symbolic for every disciple. This week, as disciples of the Lord, take time for silence and prayer as we accompany Jesus during these holy days. As we celebrate again the manifestation of God’s love for the world, may each of us find a reflective, appreciative reception of his love into our hearts. As the fire of God’s love consumes us the week, may our hearts be moved to imitate Mary’s by our many and simple acts of kindness to the Christ we discover in each other.